In the dog days of summer, when the mercury is on the rise, smart folks get out of the kitchen and fire up their barbecues.

In the dog days of summer, when the mercury is on the rise, smart folks get out of the kitchen and fire up their barbecues.

After all, who wants to heat up the house after a long hot day? And what tastes better than a good old-fashioned burger that's been grilled over an open flame?

Not much in our book.

Celebrity chef Tyler Florence's "Ultimate Burger" begins with twice-ground beef brisket. Herbed heirloom tomatoes, sweet caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, rosemary bacon and spicy condiments add even more pizazz to this top-quality burger.

While Florence has his take on the old standard, other folks are using new nutritional knowledge to take a step back in time. Remember when adding filler to beef was cause for prison riots and cafeteria food fights? Once the bane of the "Where's the beef?" crowd, oatmeal is making a comeback in burgerland. Some folks are adding a goodly handful of the heart-healthy grain to their beef, turkey, chicken or chickpea patties.

And why not? Fiber-filled burgers can take some of the guilt out of delicious grilled side dishes — corn with chipotle-lime butter, foil packets of potatoes, bacon and cheese or grilled plums, peaches and pineapple drizzled with cinnamon honey and plopped on top of ice cream.

But maybe, just maybe, it's time to try a new variation on the standard beef patty. Ground buffalo, salmon or even whole portebello mushrooms stand up well to grilling and make great burgers — alternatives that Mail Tribune readers touted in some of their favorite burger recipes.

Whatever your preference, when it comes to making a better burger, there are a few tips to perfecting the patty.

To avoid the dreaded bulging burger, create a small depression in the middle of the patty before you set it on the grill. A fat thumb print will do nicely, says Florence.

Making sure your barbecue grill is searing hot, carefully place the patty over the flames. Then leave it alone. Please.

Poking, prodding or pressing on the meat may give neophyte cooks a feeling of power, or at least something to do. But the true grillmeister knows impaling your patty with sharp implements only releases its juices into the fire, resulting in a dry burger.

So keep your cool and cook like a pro — don't flip your meat more than once.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail